Thursday, December 4, 2008

Deck the Walls

The outside Christmas decorations went up yesterday.

No Griswaldian displays for us, we are low key all the way. The colored light vs. white light dispute was resolved years ago when the colored adherents, the kids, left the premises.

Here are the Outside Decoration Commandments:
. Large wreath with white lights on gable end of the house highlighted by spot light.
. Large fir tree at front corner of house draped with white lights.
. Electric candles in every window.
. Spotlight highlighting front of house.
. Wreath on front door.
. Spotlighted wreath on barn.
. Skating frogs in front yard pond.

It takes me just moments to list these because I know them by heart. This is the way it is every year. My family is very tradition oriented when in comes to holiday trappings. If there is deviation from the scriptures above it will be commented on, noted, and complained about. I am as bad as anyone, I guess, because Christmas feels incomplete unless everything is in its assigned place.

The wreath in the gable is the keystone of our scheme and it is the most acrobatic installation I face. It requires my climbing to the porch roof, then to the kitchen roof, and from there, via stepladder, up to the gable. It’s easy enough in nice weather, but a challenge when there is snow on the roof. I take great care to avoid creating a headline like “Local Man Dies in Tragic Holiday Fall” for my neighbors to tsk and cluck over.

We like to think that the spotlighted wreath against the stone of the house creates a look that would please Andrew Wyeth……or at least Jamie Wyeth.

Placing the spotlight to shine on the front of the house is easy, but takes some tweaking. I know I have got it right when guests leaving the front door throw their arms over their eyes and stagger blindly down the path. One told me once that he thought he had stepped out into a police raid.

The real challenge is getting the lights on the tree at the corner of the house. Kathie suggested that I might not want to attempt it this year which inspired me all the more to do just that. I refuse to make compromises to age and circumstances, particularly when it comes to holiday decorating.

I used to be able to get all the lights on from a stepladder. However, the rapid growth of the tree combined with my equally rapid shrinkage has forced me to change my strategy. I duct tape two broom handles to a scrubbing brush, place the light cord on the brush and hoist it to the top of the tree. I then feed more cord and place it with the brush until I get to a point where I can finish flatfooted. I originally tried a rake but the wire would get tangled on the tines. The brush works nicely because it holds the wire in place without gripping it. So if you got to this page by Googling “putting lights on a tall outside tree”, I hope this helps.

Last year I wound up with the female end of the light string at the bottom. In some human endeavors female on bottom or on top is equally satisfactory. However, in tree light stringing it is an irreversible error. I had to start over.

Things went smoothly this year, though the damn tree swallows lights like a black hole. I ended up with about 1200 bulbs. Still, the total impact is worth it. Kathie said that the effect was so dramatic that it should be the town tree.

Not to boast, but she is right. The present town tree is a forlorn little fir that sits at the edge of the funeral parlor parking lot.

It used to be a modest, but handsome, tree next to the railway station museum. However, the gas company pronounced it a threat to its line that ran underneath and lopped it down. This was a tad on the Scrooge-ish side since it did not seem to bother them that the path of the line soon proceeds straight into a forest where it is surrounded by 40 foot trees.

However, caroling at the Califon tree lighting in the very shadow of the funeral parlor adds a gravitas to the festivities that visitors to the Rockefeller Center event never get to experience.

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